We all know how important it is to fuel our bodies correctly, for our fitness goals and a healthy life in general. Food gives us the energy to smash workouts and seize the day.
So, what happens when your window for refuelling is cut in half?
This is the challenge Muslims face each year during Ramadan, a spiritually driven month-long period of fasting, reflection, prayer and gathering with the community. It is set between sightings of the crescent moon which falls between March 22 and April 20 this year.
During this time, Muslims around the globe will fast between sunrise and sunset. This means no food or drinks (including water) can be consumed in the daylight hours, making it difficult to adequately refuel as well as get a good night’s rest in and maintain the same activity level.
If you’re hoping to keep training, you’ll need to make some adjustments to maintain a safe and sustainable exercise routine. Consider the below as a guide to help you train your best during Ramadan.
Lower the intensity
In general, your focus should be on maintaining fitness and recovery, not gains and PBs.
Since your energy input (food) will likely decrease, so too will your energy output (activity level). More than likely, you’ll have to reduce your exercise intensity and/or frequency to some degree. Kick-off Ramadan by shifting to a low-impact, moderate-intensity exercise routine, see how your body responds and adjust as necessary.
It’s a good idea to prioritise strength training over cardio, as cardio workouts can be extremely draining. You might take this opportunity to improve areas of fitness we so often neglect, such as flexibility, mobility and core strength, or to perfect a skill, such as pull-ups or push-ups.
Also, when is the best time for you to work out? Exercising on an empty stomach isn’t for everyone, so find a time that suits your body, whether that’s before eating or after, to avoid crashing.
Most importantly, this is not the time for slaving away in the gym. Pay attention to your body and listen if it’s telling you to rest or slow down.
Eat a nutrient-dense diet
The nutritional requirements for building muscle (including caloric and protein intake) will be very hard to meet given the limited window for refuelling. Once again, the focus here should be on maintenance as opposed to gains.
During Ramadan, the two daily opportunities to refuel are suhoor (before sunrise) and iftar (after sunset). You’ll need to consume nutrient-rich foods at both to provide enough energy for your workouts as well as the rest of the day.
In general, this means eating well-balanced meals with good-quality sources of protein, fats and carbohydrates.
• High-quality protein sources (such as fish, meat, beans, milk, cottage cheese and yoghurt) will help to maintain muscle mass, aid recovery, regulate your metabolism and curb hunger.
• Calorie-dense healthy fats (such as eggs, oils, nuts, avocados and salmon) will be excellent sources of fuel, reduce any cravings and keep you feeling satiated throughout the day.
• In terms of carbohydrates, you’ll want to focus on complex high-fibre sources (such as oats, brown rice, quinoa, beans, lentils, seeds, potatoes and fruit) which take longer to digest and release energy slowly throughout the day.
Up your hydration
It’s so important to increase your fluids between iftar and suhoor to compensate for the fasting period, so keep a water bottle on you.
Exercising without water can be gruelling, especially in warmer weather. Be wary of how you feel and stop if you experience signs of dehydration, such as dizziness, fatigue, nausea and muscle cramps.
You might want to incorporate electrolytes to ensure you’re sufficiently hydrated before the next fast begins. You can buy electrolyte-infused drinks; tablets or powders which you add to water; or you can make your own electrolyte-rich drinks with water, salt and fruit juice and/or honey.
Also, don’t overlook water-rich foods when planning your meals. Soups, protein shakes, smoothies and fruit can be an excellent way to meet both your nutrient and hydration needs at once.
Get plenty of quality rest
Manage your energy output by prioritising rest.
Add in extra rest days to your normal training schedule and if you feel like you need a day off, take a day off. You’ll burn out if you try to do as much exercise as you normally would.
Take afternoon naps where possible and aim to get as much good quality sleep as you need to feel well rested. You’ll get a better night’s sleep by reducing your sugar, fatty food, alcohol and caffeine intake; avoiding using smart devices or eating right before bed; and sticking to a consistent bedtime.
Ramadan is a time to shift your fitness goals. Fasting for 12+ hours a day without food and water takes a lot of mental strength and self-discipline. Those are incredible tools to sharpen for any fitness journey, however, it means your physical capabilities just won’t be the same. And that’s okay. Dial back your workout intensity, refuel with nutrient-dense foods, up your hydration outside the fasting window and prioritise adequate sleep and rest to keep training your best during Ramadan.
Ramadan at Sista Fitness
If you’d prefer, Sista Fitness offers membership holds so you may temporarily suspend your membership during the period of Ramadan. You may suspend your account for up to three months per year for a once-off $10 fee.
If you’re looking for a gym with a supportive, women-oriented culture, consider Sista Fitness. Our gyms prioritise cleanliness and hygiene, high-quality equipment and the safety and comfort of all our female members. Come visit us in Morley, Midland or Harrisdale to check out our facilities or call our wonderful team for more information.
2. Eat right.
Yep, nutrition and self-care go hand-in-hand. Instead of getting wrapped up in oppressive diet culture where “food is the enemy”, remember that food is the ultimate form of nourishment. Proper nutrition plays a vital role in your ability to stay active, regulate hormones, maintain a healthy gut, and think clearly — good food really is an investment in self-care.
And just to be clear, we’re not talking about depriving yourself of the foods you love. More often than not, sticking to a strict diet tends to be the opposite of good nutrition and self-care and actually creates a lot of fear and anxiety around food. You’re encouraged to have that burger or plate of pasta, just remember to have it all in moderation and aim for a balanced diet.
3. Rest & relax.
Leave the housework, studies, caretaker roles, or other obligations for a moment and invest time in whatever simple self-care activities bring you joy. Nothing springing to mind? We asked some of our Sista’s how they invest in rest, and here’s what they said:
Having a coffee and reading a book.
– Seeing a friend.
– Going for a walk.
– Watching your good movie.
– Soaking in the tub.
– Getting a massage or manicure.
– Putting the kids in day care for the day.
– Doing something crafty.
– Napping (and yes, taking a nap totally counts as an activity!).
Relaxation is key to slowing your heart rate and breathing rate. It’s proven to reduce blood pressure and ease muscle tensions, making it an awesome self-care tool for stress management as well. However you like to chill out, your physical, mental, and emotional well-being will thank you for a bit of R&R.
Love yourself at Sista Fitness.
It’s never too early or too late to start your self-love journey at Sista Fitness. Our members and staff have created a haven for every woman to focus on themselves and achieve their health and fitness goals. Browse our facilities and check out our memberships to see the Sista Fitness difference for yourself. You can even sign up for a casual pass if you’d like to try us out before you officially become a Sista. We hope to see you soon!